2017-07-08 / Top News

State Releases Draft Alternative Analysis Report on Line 5

By Erich T. Doerr

Encasing the full underwater portion of Enbridge Energy Line 5 in a tunnel or trenching it into the lake floor under the Straits of Mackinac were among options discussed in the first draft of an alternative analysis report made public last week.

The report found both options to be viable. It also said Enbridge could continue to use the existing lines, but that would necessitate threat and risk modeling to create an accurate evaluation of the pipeline’s “safe and reliable” operating life.

The State of Michigan released the draft report Thursday, June 29. It is available online at the Michigan Petroleum Pipelines Information website, mipetroleumpipelines.com. The pipe carries crude oil and natural gas to facilities in Michigan and the surrounding region.

A 30-day comment period began Thursday, July 6. Comments can be submitted online through the Michigan Petroleum Pipelines Information website, where an email option will be available, or by sending a regular mail message to Michigan Agency for Energy, Attn: Line 5 Pipeline Study, P.O. Box 30221, 7109 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing, MI 48917.

Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, which prepared the report for the state, began work on it in August 2016. Its report included an analysis of the existing pipeline, proposals for transport alternative to the present line, and options for abandoning the line.

The draft also suggested options for transporting oil through a new pipeline, rerouting the oil carried in Line 5 to a non-Great Lakes pipeline, or using alternative transportation means such as rail cars. Those options would allow the company to decommission the Straits pipes.

After looking at available pipeline infrastructure owned by Enbridge and other companies, Dynamic Risk determined rerouting Line 5 oil isn’t viable unless it’s done through a newly built pipeline or an alternative transportation mode. Moving the oil and gas by rail, truck, or boat, however, also isn’t viable, according to the report.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, in a prepared statement following release of the draft report, said Michigan needs a comprehensive plan for Line 5 based on “science, available technology, and common sense.” He said there should be a timeline for shutdown of the pipeline, disagreeing with a portion of the report that said that the pipeline could be operated indefinitely if maintained. Mr. Schuette said the Straits tunnel idea presents a useful option allowing for continuous visual inspection of the line.

Mr. Schuette noted Michigan’s need for propane to supply the Upper Peninsula still must be met. If the state takes any closure action for Line 5, it still must encourage and protect the state’s energy production industry, he said.

“The safety and security of our Great Lakes is etched in the DNA of every Michigan resident, and the final decision on Line 5 needs to include a discussion with those that rely on propane for heating their homes, and depend on the pipeline for employment,” Mr. Schuette said. “One thing is certain: the next steps we take should be for the long-term protection of the Great Lakes.”

Dynamic Risk representatives presented analysis of the report to the public Thursday, July 6, in an information session at Holt High School in Holt, south of Lansing. Those who didn’t make could watch a video stream of the event online.

Three feedback sessions held later in the month will feature state and Dynamic Risk representatives listening to public comments. The first will be at Holt High School Monday, July 24, at 8 a.m. and a second in the Hagerty Center at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City at 6 p.m. the same day.

The last will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 25, at the Little Bear East Arena in St. Ignace. Speakers will be allowed three minutes each on a first-come, first-served basis.

Enbridge said the company supports Michigan’s studies and wants them to remain independent so the public would have confidence in them and trust the results. Enbridge Communications Strategist Ryan Duffy said Enbridge will assess the findings before it providing comments about them.

“Enbridge remains committed to protecting the Great Lakes and meeting the energy needs of Michigan through the safe operation of Line 5,” Mr. Duffy said in a release. “We have never wavered from that commitment. That’s our focus, day in, day out.”

Enbridge Regional Director John Gauderman, who spoke to the media just before release of the report, said the company supports the process. Mr. Gauderman said Enbridge looks forward to speaking with state officials about the need for Line 5, the company’s commitment to its safe operation, and the safe transport of fuel through the Straits of Mackinac. He said Enbridge will provide accurate information about its operations and efforts to protect the Great Lakes.

“The reliability of our pipeline systems is our top priority,”

Mr. Gauderman said in a company press release. “Enbridge’s maintenance schedule on Line 5 exceeds federal requirements to meet our goal of protecting Michigan’s environment. After more than 60 years in service, Line 5 is in outstanding operating condition because the rigorous maintenance done through the decades. We intend to keep it that way.”

Mr. Gauderman said Enbridge is committed to the safe operation of Line 5 and is working to publicly demonstrate its reliability. The company recently carried out hydrotesting that pressurized both sides of the Line 5 pipeline to levels far exceeding operational limits for which the pipeline was tested before it entered service in 1953. Mr. Gauderman said those tests clearly demonstrated that the line can safely be kept in service and that the company has maintained it well.

Enbridge’s plans for the Straits area portion of the line include installing 22 new underwater anchor supports to fortify it, inspecting its coating, and installing new valves in key locations throughout the system for increased control if there’s a need to respond to an emergency.

“Line 5 delivers the energy Michigan wants and needs,” Mr. Gauderman said in the release. “Enbridge operations in Michigan provide a vital service to residents in Michigan and beyond and are an invaluable component of our local, regional and national energy infrastructure network.”

Mr. Gauderman said propane running through Line 5 supplies more than half of Michigan. State and regional refineries use the line to supply crude oil they need to produce an array of products ranging from eyeglasses and fertilizer to toothpaste, coolers, sunglasses, vitamins, and antihistamines, he said.

The second planned Line 5 risk report was cancelled June 21, when the State of Michigan terminated its contract with the firm Det Norske Veritas (DNVGL). The state cancelled it because an employee who worked on the report for DNVGL also worked on another Enbridge project before the report was completed, violating the contract’s conflict of interests provisions.

Line 5, built in 1953, runs from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario, carrying 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas liquids over a 645-mile route every day.

The Dynamic Risk reports said Line 5 as an integral part of Enbridge’s Lakehead system that transports 2.6-millon barrels of energy-producing materials to the U.S. Midwest, East Coast, and to eastern Canada. Line 5 is also the only Enbridge component that can deliver 2,000 barrels a day of natural gas liquids to its Rapid River facility for the production of Upper Peninsula propane.

It carries light crude oil from Michigan wells to Detroit and Toledo refineries that are important suppliers of gasoline and other products to all of Michigan.

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